Book Notes: July-August 2007

August 1, 2007
Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can

Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can't Predict the Future
By Orrin H. Pilkey and Linda Pilkey-Jarvis.
Columbia University Press, 2007. 230 pages. $29.95.

As the title suggests, this book explains how the quantitative mathematical models policy makers and government administrators use to form environmental policies are seriously flawed. Pilkey, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of geology at Duke, and Pilkey-Jarvis, his daughter and a geologist in the state of Washington's department of ecology, provide an array of case studies that demonstrate how the seductiveness of quantitative models has led to unmanageable nuclear-waste disposal practices, unjustifiable faith in predicted sea-level-rise rates, bad predictions of future shoreline-erosion rates, overly optimistic estimates of the costs of artificial beaches, and other problems.

To Die Well: Your Right to Comfort, Calm, and Choice in the Last Days of Life 
By Sidney Wanzer

To Die Well: Your Right to Comfort, Calm, and Choice in the Last Days of Life
By Sidney Wanzer '50, M.D. '54 and Joseph Glenmullen.
De Capo Press, 2007. 209 pages. $24.00.

When it comes to the medical treatment of patients with terminal illnesses, there are two schools of thought. Doctors can either prolong the lives of these patients or make their dying as comfortable as possible. Wanzer and Glenmullen argue that, in the case of a painful illness, the best course of action is to make the patient's last days as peaceful and pain-free as possible. Their book provides information about end-of-life issues and care, from the right to refuse treatment to legal ways to bring about death if pain or distress cannot be alleviated.

Law School in a Box: All the Prestige for a Fraction of the Price
Med School in a Box: All the Prestige for a Fraction of the Price 
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Law School in a Box: All the Prestige for a Fraction of the Price
Med School in a Box: All the Prestige for a Fraction of the Price

By mental_floss magazine.
Quirk Books, 2007. $14.95 each.

Attending law school or medical school can be expensive and time consuming. But the creators of mental_floss magazine have developed an alternative that they say is cheaper and faster-and fits easily in a tin box (provided). Each tin contains a "curriculum," a ninety-six-page-booklet that includes legal and medical tidbits, both serious and comical; twenty informational cards; an exam "challenge"; and a diminutive diploma, courtesy of "Mental Floss University." The magazine, which deals in interesting knowledge and trivia, was founded by William E. Pearson '01 and Mangesh Hattikudur '01.

Firestorm: Allied Airpower and the Destruction of Dresden 
By Marshall De Bruhl

Firestorm: Allied Airpower and the Destruction of Dresden
By Marshall De Bruhl '58. Random House, 2006. 346 pages. $27.95

On February 13 and 14, 1945, three waves of British and U.S. aircraft dropped thousands of bombs on the largely undefended German city of Dresden. Night and day, Dresden was engulfed in a sea of flame, and tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, were killed. De Bruhl combines his own research, contemporary reports, and eyewitness accounts of the event to recreate the drama of the bombing and appraise the tactics of and rationale for the attack. He also documents the evolution of both Axis and Allied air power and larger aerial bombardment campaigns in World War II.

Filibuster to Delay a Kiss and Other Poems 
By Courtney Queeney

Filibuster to Delay a Kiss and Other Poems
By Courtney Queeney '00.
Random House, 2007. 81 pages. $19.95.

Queeney's debut book of poetry concerns the world of a young woman coming to terms with her family, her erotic joy and suffering, and the desire for fame. Her poems define her own complex sensibility-a world in which "daughter" rhymes with "slaughter," where "bedroom" is an anagram for "boredom." Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, McSweeney's, and the book Three New Poets (Sheep Meadow Press, 2006).

Jake Fades: a Novel of Impermanence 
By David Guy

Jake Fades: a Novel of Impermanence
By David Guy '70, M.A.T. '77.
Trumpeter, 2007. 210 pages. $19.95

Jake, an aging Zen master and bicycle repairman in Bar Harbor, Maine, and Hank, Jake's longtime student, take a weeklong trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jake tries to convince Hank to take over teaching for him, but Hank is reluctant, full of self-doubt. Meanwhile Hank has begun to wonder whether Jake's strange comments are the fruits of Zen or Alzheimer's disease. The novel, Guy's fifth, is a story about love, death, relationships, and mentorship. Guy is a writing instructor in the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy.